In When the Misdiagnosis Is Child Abuse, published in The Atlantic and The Marshall Project, journalist Stephanie Clifford reported about child abuse pediatricians — doctors who are trained to determine whether kids’ injuries are accidental or inflicted. In most cases, these conclusions can’t be made with certainty — but the child welfare system often takes them as fact. As Clifford documented, this has resulted in the unnecessary separation of families, incarceration of parents who have not harmed their children and trauma for both children and parents.
Here, Clifford discusses her reporting process and what she learned from parents, as well as the role of power dynamics, racism and classism in these situations. She shares recommendations for change and for how parents can protect themselves from a false accusation.